TORONTO — Tyrell Richards is a football player again.
The Montreal Alouettes selected the former Syracuse linebacker first overall in the CFL draft Tuesday night. The six-foot-three, 232-pound Richards, had a career-high 24 tackles (3.5 for a loss) and two sacks in eight games (three starts) for the Orange in 2020.
He didn’t play in 2021 after he entered the transfer portal but wasn’t able to move to another school due to not having enough transferable credits.
Richards attended the CFL combine in March and performed well, posting a 37-inch vertical jump, 19 reps in the 225-pound bench press and running the 40-yard dash in 4.60 seconds. He also impressed with his versatility, testing with defensive lineman and working out with defensive backs.
“Honestly, leading up to the combine it was kind of rough but after that day, I started feeling like a football player again,” Richards said. “All of the preparation that went into that has increased and now that we’re heading into camp, you’ll get the best me.”
Richards, of Brampton, Ont., spent 2021 training and coaching at Clarkson Secondary School, his former high school in Mississauga, Ont. Richards had 54 tackles (9.5 for a loss) and six sacks in 31 career games at Syracuse and admits there’s pressure on him as the first overall pick.
“I feel like I know how to deal with myself in these situations, keeping my head on straight and not being worried about what anyone has to say,’ Richards said. “I want to go out there and not shy away from anything.
“They (Alouettes) can expect some physicality.”
Montreal secured the No. 1 pick before the draft in a trade with Edmonton. The Elks received the rights to Canadian offensive lineman Carter O’Donnell — a native of Red Deer, Alta., currently with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts — and the fourth overall selection.
Earlier on Tuesday, Montreal secured the ninth and 18th selections from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for Canadian defensive tackle Cameron Lawson and the 13th overall pick.
Montreal also had the top pick in the global draft and selected Nigerian-born defensive lineman Kingsley Jonathan, who played with Richards at Syracuse. But Jonathan agreed to terms with the Buffalo Bills on Saturday after being bypassed in the NFL draft.
The Ottawa Redblacks took Zach Pelehos, an offensive lineman from the University of Ottawa, second overall. The six-foot-five, 296-pound Gananoque, Ont., native was an OUA first-team all-star last season and was the fastest offensive linemen over 40 yards at the combine.
“I’m very pleased to be able to stay in the city of Ottawa,” Pelehos said “I know I’m going to bring the physicality each day.
“I know I’m going to get moved inside … to more of a guard-centre type. Coming into camp I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can, work to take over one of those spots … each day is going to be a grind.”
At No. 3, the B.C. Lions looked to Saskatchewan defensive lineman Nathan Cherry. The six-foot-three, 245-pound Saskatoon native had 24 tackles (15 solo, eight for loss) and six sacks last season.
Cherry was surprised to be taken by B.C. so early.
“I had no idea that I was going No. 3 but I talked to B.C. (Tuesday morning) and I knew they were interested in me. When my first started ringing, I was like, ‘OK, it’s happening right now.’ I thought there was a one-in-nine shot for every team but I’m excited to be going to B.C.”
Edmonton followed by taking Coastal Carolina linebacker/defensive back Henoc Makonzo. The five-foot-11, 195-pound Lachine, Que., native had 71 tackles and three forced fumbles last season, earning All-Sun Belt honourable mention.
The Calgary Stampeders stayed local at No. 5, drafting Dinos receiver Jaylen Philpot. The five-foot-11, 193-pound native of Delta, B.C., whose father, Cory, was a former CFL running back, registered 43 catches for 799 yards and three touchdowns in six games, earning first team All-Canadian honours for a second straight year.
The Toronto Argonauts shored up their offensive line with St. Francis Xavier’s Gregor MacKellar. The six-foot-five, 311-pound native of Timberlea, N.S., began his college career at Rice and is expected to bring a mean streak into the CFL.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders drafted Louisiana Tech receiver Samuel Emilus, a six-foot-one, 198-pound Montreal native. He had 17 catches for 257 yards and three TDs last season and has accepted a mini-camp offer from the Arizona Cardinals.
The Elks used their second opening-round pick on Waterloo Warriors quarterback Tre Ford. The Hec Crighton Trophy winner from Niagara Falls, Ont., had 1,465 passing yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 667 yards and three TDs over six games last year.
The Elks’ quarterback depth chart already includes veteran Nick Arbuckle, former Ohio State star T.J. Barrett and sophomore Taylor Cornelius, who made eight starts last year. The five-foot-11, 199-pound Ford becomes the highest quarterback taken since Edmonton selected Kansas State’s Sheldon Paris seventh in 1980 but Ford has been invited to the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants mini camps.
Montreal rounded out the first round by taking Calgary receiver Tyson Philpot, Jaylen’s twin brother. The five-foot-11, 189-pound Tyson Philpot had 41 catches for 746 yards and nine TDs last season and was named a first-team All-Canadian and Canada West’s outstanding player.
Coincidentally, Montreal kicks off the regular season visiting Calgary on June 9.
Toronto got great value in the second round, taking Western defensive lineman Deionte Knight at No. 10 and Bryant running back Daniel Adeboboye five picks later. The six-foot-three, 278-pound Knight, of Ajax., Ont., was Canadian university football’s top lineman last year while Adeboboye, a Toronto native, was a All-NEC First team player in the spring of 2021 after becoming the first Bryant running back to average over 100 yards per game since 2015.
B.C. selected Saskatchewan offensive lineman Noah Zerr with the third pick of the round, No. 12 overall. The six-foot-six, 305-pound Zerr, of Langenburg, Sask., was a first team All-Canadian and Canada West all-star in 2021 but has accepted an invitation to the New York Giants mini camp.
Then with the next pick, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers took Waterloo defensive back Tyrell Ford, Tre Ford’s twin brother. The five-foot-10, 188-pound Tyrell Ford was the fastest player at the CFL combine, posting a 40-yard dash of 4.42 seconds. He was invited to the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets mini camps.
The Redblacks completed the second round selecting Penn State’s Jesse Luketa, the CFL scouting bureau’s second-ranked draft prospect. The six-foot-three, 247-pound Ottawa native spent his first three college seasons as a linebacker before adding defensive end to his repertoire last year. But Luketa was a seventh-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press